I can tell you about my life, but I can’t tell you my life story. Lives aren’t stories, or at least they aren’t true stories. At best, lives are episodic. More accurately, lives are arbitrary events and most of them take place in our heads.
Here’s the story I tell myself. Keep in mind that it’s less true than the average novel, but I find myself unable to avoid taking it completely seriously.
I was born in my momma’s bed in a small Appalachian town in West Virginia. She died when I entered this world. I always felt guilty. It’s my original sin.
Since then, I haven’t killed anybody, but I’ve been less than perfect. I grew lots of facial hair. That plus my hat which I wear low and a small mask makes me easy to spot but hard to identify. Which works for me because I like to rob rural banks. You’d be surprised at security at rural banks. The guards are properly armed, but they’re also old, lazy or just plain scared. Sometimes I wonder if it’s worthwhile bringing my own gun.
Now you’re laughing. I suppose that’s because I’m telling this story from inside a county prison. If it’s so easy to rob banks, how’d you get caught? That’s what you want to know.
We’ll, I didn’t get caught robbing a bank. I got caught spending my loot. I was at the general store (it’s the only store around here), just getting some cigarettes and other necessary provisions. I handed the clerk a twenty. He was a young skinny boy. Probably didn’t shave yet. He excused himself and told me to wait.
I waited. I needed those cigarettes. I shoulda run, but I didn’t.
The boy returns with the constable. I greeted him cheerfully. We’d met before and I think he always suspected I was the robber. But he had nothing and couldn’t do a thing to stop me. Until now.
“Yer coming with me, Cyrus,” he said. “Down to the station.”
“What for?” I said. “You got nothing on me, Filbert, and you know it.”
“Nothing,” he says, “until now.” He waves a note at me.
I recognize the note. It says “This is a hold up. Put the money in a bag NOW and nobody gets hurt.”
It’s my note. Must have got stuck to the back of the twenty. The clerk noticed and fetched the constable.
As I was saying, life isn’t a story. It’s just one damn thing after another. Or the same damn thing over and over. So I live in stories. They’re better, more interesting and surely more fulfilling than life.
There is no note, I’ve never been to West Virginia, mom’s fine and I was born in a city hospital. But I like my story better, and I’m sticking to it.
Back to another boring day at the job. I’m a clerk. Don’t get on my bad side.